POTUS-supported MAGA rap contest gaining backlash


President Trump is likely to become the first US president to sponsor a rap contest. The prize is a trip to the White House to meet Mr. Trump. Rolling Stone magazine has noted that the president’s track record for actually awarding prizes is “not great.” But that is not the most problematic part of the whole idea of this contest. For some people, it is the quality of the entries. Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has already started judging some of the MAGA rappers. Not that Kimmel’s opinion is the only one that counts, but he is not the only person to respond negatively. Some of the entries have been called “cringe-worthy.”

Contest fundamentals vs. the MAGA rap contest

Those who have not heard of the contest are not alone. Apparently, the MAGA rap contest has been going for at least two months. No winners have been chosen and entries are still being called for. It is unclear as of yet when the contest will end.

In most contests of almost any type, a time period for receiving entries is stated, along with a series of rules, including exclusions, or who can and cannot participate due to relationships with judges and other relevant personnel. None of that is happening with this contest.

In addition, most performing arts, or any arts contest, really, have a theme. But the theme for the MAGA rap contest is a bit troubling. The contestants have to rap about why Trump is the best president. They can address how they are winning in the current administration. And that is it. A beat created by an African-American Trump supporter, Bryson Gray, can be used as the backing music for the homegrown rap lyrics. Gray took to social media to make his work available for all MAGA rap contest entries.

The open-ended nature of the contest, along with its quite narrow theme, and the lack of actual governance of the contest are troubling.

MAGA rap and the POTUS

While the fundamentals of the MAGA rap contest are as yet unclear, the premise of the contest itself is baffling. In other words, what relationship does this president have with rap culture? Surely his brief alliance with Kanye West (who has seemingly recanted the whole thing) is not what this is based on. Or, is it? Another way to look at the contest is that it could serve as means to remain relevant. The answers to this question regarding the POTUS and his ties to the world of rap are speculative at best. Some critics have pointed out that the contest is evidence of the president’s penchant for show business. Again, answers in regard to why this contest exists are speculative at best.

So far, at least one (former) celebrity is jumping on the bandwagon to perform his own MAGA rap. Ex-“Gray’s Anatomy” actor, Isaiah Washington took to social media to demonstrate his support for the president and his rap skills.

As the entries are made available on the Internet, late night comedians and the general public are using them as fodder for humor. Besides an opportunity to tell the president what a good job he is doing, and maybe the chance to go to the White House to meet Mr. Trump, the MAGA rap contest does not seem to offer much to entrants, or their communities.

Despite the nebulous nature of the MAGA rap contest, at least a portion of it did begin with a serious socio-political aim. When Gray made his own rap, “MAGA BOY,” he referred to identity politics and the negative responses black people get for being Trump fans. So, there is that. No party should be able to depend on voters simply because of race. But, there is also a such thing as voting against one’s interests, and that is another issue altogether.

From what Gray has posted, it seems as if he anticipated just black people taking part in the contest. There are plenty of white participants, too. Maybe Gray hadn’t foreseen that.

On the one hand, a rap contest sponsored by the president with a chance to perform at the White House is not a bad idea. That the contest leaves too many unanswered questions and the stakes are high for entrants who do not realize the level of scorn they are potentially setting themselves up for. It will be interesting to see who wins the MAGA rap contest and how they are rewarded.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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